Power plays shape Portland's government transition
Portland's city council approved a new management structure for the city's future government and an action plan to get there — but with amendments that dealt a blow to Mayor Ted Wheeler's plans for how the transition should go.
- Commissioners voted 4-1 — the mayor was the only no vote — on a road map that allows them to keep more control of the transition process than the mayor wants.
Why it matters: The transition groundwork this action plan guides could influence how effectively Portland operates next year — the last before the change — as well as how smoothly the new and very different government gets off the ground.
What's happening: The council gave final approval to a new government organizational chart, grouping Portland's two dozen or so bureaus into six service areas, each with its own manager, all reporting to a hired chief administrative officer.
- For example, "public safety" includes fire, police and 911 services.
- A "vibrant communities" service area includes Parks & Recreation, arts and a special set of programs for young children.
- Wheeler wanted to hire an interim chief city administrator by summer and give that person authority to start running city bureaus right away.
- Other council members wanted to keep control of the bureaus they manage now until the full transition happens in 2025.
The big picture: The approved plan gives council members a say in picking an interim chief administrator, and it lets each continue running the same areas they oversee now — unless they want to hand over management to interim administrators.
What they're saying: Wheeler called the approved plan a "mishmash" of "confusing and possibly contradictory" amendments that could significantly slow down the transition process.
- Commissioner Rene Gonzalez countered that Wheeler's original proposal gave interim, unelected officials too much power too early, undermining existing commissioners' authority.
Catch up quick: Last year, voters decided to change Portland's current form of government that has been in place for 110 years.
- Under the current system — which ends on Jan. 1, 2025 — five elected city commissioners act as both the legislative and executive branches of local government, passing city laws together and individually running a handful of the city's two dozen bureaus, like Parks & Recreation or the Bureau of Transportation.
- In the new system, 12 elected city council members will pass city laws, and a hired chief administrative officer will run the city's daily operations.
Separately, council members tentatively approved a timeline for reconstruction of City Hall.
- Reconstruction of the council chambers — to accommodate 12 instead of the current five council members — should start in January.
- Council members will move their offices to a different building by July.
More Portland stories
No stories could be found
Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Portland.